Evaluating Online Instruction and Cross-Institutional Course Sharing
The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC), in collaboration with Ithaka S+R, recently concluded its four-year initiative with the Consortium for Online Humanities Instruction (2014-18), which provided opportunities for two distinct cohorts of private liberal arts colleges to first design and teach online humanities courses in their own institutions and later to revise and offer the same courses to all students in the Consortium. The second Consortium just completed its final year of work and participants shared valuable insights about what they have gained and learned through the experience.
Since the beginning of the project in 2014, Ithaka S+R has provided technical support and evaluated the Consortium’s outcomes and implementation. Today, we publish CIC Consortium for Online Humanities Instruction II: Evaluation Report for the Second Course Iteration, covering the final year outcomes of the second Consortium cohort. A separate synthesis report covering the key lessons learned across the two Consortia efforts is also forthcoming, which may serve as a useful guide to academic leaders at other smaller independent colleges who are considering undertaking, or are already experimenting with, various innovative course design and delivery strategies on their campuses.
Overall, faculty in the second Consortium reported that their online courses were more successful this year by a number of measures. Many had revised their courses to set clearer expectations for students and to promote student interest and engagement. But making these changes was not onerous. Seventy percent of faculty indicated that they only had to make small modifications to their courses before offering them again this year, and a smaller share needed to rely on instructional designers and technologists for support. However, faculty continued to find it difficult to connect on a personal level with their students, and several noted that this was the least satisfying aspect of teaching online.
Administrators noted that although this initiative did not provide direct answers to their low enrollment and cost-saving issues, it has demonstrated that cross-institutional collaboration can provide ways to diversify their course offerings and serve different populations of students. Overall, participants from both the first and second consortia agreed that the larger conversation about online humanities instruction has fundamentally changed from “Should we do this?” to “How do we do this?” The participants are going to continue to explore that question and take their lessons learned to the next level. With possible additional funding from CIC, several smaller groups of institutions are planning to conduct a formal needs analysis to understand how they might work together on addressing specific challenges that they individually and collectively face.
As you read the report, we encourage you to share your questions and comments with us below.
 The 21 participating institutions in CIC Consortium I (2014-16) were: Augustana College (IL), Bethune-Cookman University (FL), Bucknell University (PA), Concordia College (NY), Connecticut College (CT), Elizabethtown College (PA), Gordon College (MA), Grand View University (IA), Hiram College (OH), Lesley University (MA), McDaniel College (MD), Moravian College (PA), Otterbein University (OH), Park University (MO), Saint Michael’s College (VT), Saint Vincent College (PA), Susquehanna University (PA), Sweet Briar College (VA), Trinity College (CT), University of St. Francis (IL), and Warthburg College (IA).
The 21 participating institutions in CIC Consortium II (2016-18) were: Bloomfield College (NJ), Carlow University (PA), Carroll College (MT), Carroll University (WI), Claflin University (SC), Clarke University (IA), Concordia University Texas (TX), Gettysburg College (PA), Lasell College (MA), Mount Mary University (WI), Northwestern College (IA), Randolph-Macon College (VA), Rosemont College (PA), Shenandoah University (VA), Siena College (NY), Simpson College (IA), St. Edward’s University (TX), St. Olaf College (MN), Ursuline College (OH), Walsh University (OH), and Wesleyan College (GA).